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the seat of Shawnee County, and the capital of Kansas; population ~124,000; area 56 square miles

location of Topeka


In 1854, nine anti-slavers sailed up the Kansas River from Lawrence to establish a town which they in turn wanted to become the capital of Kansas. Land was purchased, and the Topeka Association was established on December 5, 1854. The City of Topeka was incorporated on February 14, 1857, with Cyrus K. Holliday as Mayor, and it became the capital of Kansas upon its admission as the 34th state in 1861.

Kansas State Capitol
Kansas State Capitol


State government provides well over half of Topeka's total annual revenue, and over 20 percent of all residents work for the state in one capacity or another. The federal government also has a significant presence in the city. The remainder of the city's economy is based in financial and business services, manufacturing, education, and health services. The BNSF Railway Company was founded in Topeka as the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad and is still headquartered here. Collective Brands (parent company of Payless Shoe Source) is also headquartered in Topeka, as is Hill's Pet Nutrition (makers of Hill's Science Diet pet foods). Hallmark Cards operates a large printing plant in Topeka, and the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company plant in Topeka is the largest producer of tires for earthmoving equipment in the world. Topeka is also home to The Menninger Clinic, one of the most respected mental health facilities in the world.

Topeka is served by two regional airports, Philip Billard Municipal Airport and Forbes Field Airport.


Public education in Topeka proper is the responsibility of USD 501, which operates 18 elementary, 6 middle, and 6 high schools. There are also several private schools and academies. Suburban areas of Topeka are served by other school districts.

The only institution of higher learning in Topeka is Washburn Univeristy. Founded as Lincoln College in 1865, Washburn has an annual enrollment of about 6,500, and is the only municipally-owned university in the country.

Other Information

Brown v Board of Education, the Supreme Court case in which segregated public schools were ruled unconstitutional, began with a lawsuit filed in Topeka. That event is now honored and chronicled at the Brown v Board of Education National Historic Site, which includes the school that started the lawsuit.

Notable Topekans include: Karl Augustus Menninger, co-founder of The Menninger Clinic; Aaron Douglas, painter and illustrator; Apollo astronaut Ronald Evans; Arthur Capper, editor, publisher and politician; actress Annette Bening; Georgia Neese Clark Gray, Treasurer of the United States; poet Gwendolyn Brooks; author Rex Stout; jazz musician Coleman Hawkins; rock group Kansas; Charles Monroe Sheldon, Congregational minister who "invented" the phrase "What Would Jesus Do?"; Dean Smith, head basketball coach at the University of North Carolina; professional bowler Bob Benoit; professional football player Trey Lewis; professional golfer Gary Woodland; college basketball coach Mark Turgeon; and Charles Curtis, Vice-President of the United States under Herbert Hoover.

Gavitt's Stock Exchange, a very popular game, was developed by Topeka entrepreneur Harry E. Gavitt, who also invented an automatic envelope stuffing 1903.

Alfred E. Neuman, the logo character for Mad Magazine, was originally the logo for a Topeka dentist who advertised that his services "didn't hurt a bit!"

See Also

Cyrus K. Holliday
Brown v Board of Education
Aaron Douglas
Arthur Capper
Georgia Neese Clark Gray
Gwendolyn Brooks
Coleman Hawkins
Charles Monroe Sheldon
Dean Smith
Charles Curtis

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The Robinson Library >> Kansas >> Cities and Towns

This page was last updated on August 28, 2018.